From Mahindra to Tata Motors, automakers charge ahead with EV plans

Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the earlier entrants to the EV space, too, is going ahead with its launch plans, says Mahesh Babu, CEO, Mahindra Electric.
The core internal combustion engine-powered vehicles of auto manufacturers may have been badly bruised by the pandemic, but that has not derailed the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. Encouraged by a pick-up in demand, most firms are going ahead with earmarked investments and have planned roll-outs, said top officials.

Shailesh Chandra, president of the passenger vehicle business unit at Tata Motors, says EVs have actually grown year-on-year. Growth could have been steeper had the fleet segment not got hammered due to the pandemic-induced curbs on public transport.

“The employee transport segment has crashed due to work-from-home and e-mobility services companies struggling to utilise their current fleet,” says Chandra, pointing out that the EV industry will see accelerated growth.

The company is going ahead with its plans to fast-track EV adoption in India. Presently, the Tata Motors EV portfolio comprises two versions of the Tigor EV — 140 km and 213 km range — and the Nexon EV with a 312-km range. The Altroz EV it showcased at the Auto Expo 2020 is under production.

Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the earlier entrants to the EV space, too, is going ahead with its launch plans, says Mahesh Babu, CEO, Mahindra Electric.

M&M, which sells the e-autorickshaw under the Treo brand, has a packed timeline, with new launches planned in the EV space. “Though there are minor operational delays, the pandemic hasn’t disrupted our plans,” says Babu.

M&M plans to launch the e-KUV1OO this festive season, followed by the e-quadricycle Atom by the end of FY21. This will be followed by the e-XUV3OO by the second quarter of FY22. “The disruptions created by the pandemic are short term. EVs are the future,” says Babu, adding it has given the industry an opportunity to rethink and reboot.

But not everyone is giving EVs the push right now.

Bajaj Auto has de-prioritised its EV plans for a few months after a high-profile launch of the e-Chetak to ensure focus on the core motorcycle business.

Its maiden offering — e-Chetak — is unlikely to be available in cities other than Pune and Bengaluru as the company doesn’t plan to expand its footprint, says Rakesh Sharma, executive director at the firm.

“We make a loss on every e-Chetak,” says Sharma. “One’s appetite for losses in this kind of a situation when you are trying to ensure your basics are taken care of, is not high.” He cites supply chain issues as another reason for stalling bookings and shelving expansion.

“We have more bookings than what we can service,” says Sharma. “We would first like to deliver the models to those who have booked.”

But Bajaj hasn’t “taken its eyes off the ball”, says Sharma, adding the firm will revisit its EV plan in two-three months. It is using this time to strengthen its back-end and core business.

Chandra said the recent growth seen in the EV space has been driven by private buyers. Earlier this month, Tata Motors rolled out its 1,000th e-Nexon in a period of five months, making it the highest-selling EV model. Its maiden EV offering was launched in January this year. But sales and production got hit due to the back-to-back nationwide lockdown.

MG Motor India’s eZS and Hyundai’s Kona are the other launches in the personal e-mobility space.  Both models are in a higher price bracket, compared to the e-Nexon. Meanwhile, luxury carmakers like Mercedes-Benz and Audi also plan to launch their EV offerings this festive season.

To a large extent, the plans are being fuelled by a policy push. Though policies like the one declared by the Delhi government on August 18 (setting a four-year time frame to achieve the target of 25 per cent electrification of new vehicle fleet in Delhi) will spur faster adoption, the overall EV penetration in India is expected to remain low over the next five years, says rating agency ICRA.

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